A 3-Act Uncle Tom

    This play has to speak for itself, since nothing is known about who wrote it, or when. It's from a box in the New York Public Library's Performing Arts Center that contains five published and unpublished dramatizations of the story. It is a typescript that was probably prepared for use as a promptbook in a production; there are revisions, drawings and notes in pencil throughout the ts. The text available here is simply the original typescript.

    This version is clearly designed for use by a small company: it shrinks the cast down to nine people, and keeps most of them busy throughout. It divides Tom's story into the usual three major settings -- the Shelbys, the St. Clairs and Simon Legree's -- but invents a way to bring St. Clair, Eva, Ophelia, Topsy and Legree together at Shelby's, then has Ophelia and Topsy, for example, show up at Legree's. It also eliminates the most spectacular scenes, from Eliza crossing the ice (narrated rather than staged) to the scene at the Rocky Pass, though that may have been eliminated as more than just an economy measure. In one of this text's most striking interpolations into the standard script, Ophelia tells George Harris he shouldn't be "like a fool man" and "spoil everything" by trying "to be heroic," but rather must "sit still and wait" while Liza and Topsy save themselves. A bit later, Ophelia herself beats Legree with her umbrella, and then "Jack Shelby" (as George Shelby is named), after telling George that he "can't touch" Legree because he's not white, beats him with his fists.

    There are a number of other surprises in this version, though no suggestion (either in the ts. or the pencilled notes) that it was played for camp. That suggests it was probably written sometime before 1930, but the date assigned to it here -- "c.1920" -- is frankly a guess.
  • ACT 1
  • ACT 2
  • ACT 3
  • The Billy Rose Theatre Collection
    The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts.
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